20 October 2013 Books
I go all the way around the park round the park listening to the Navy Lark
Our heroes are in trouble They are to transport an ambassador to Forbodia. Pertwee does not like it. The last one lasted two weeks. Priceless
Sweep the leaves sort the books so tired
We watch Hancock its not too bad
Scrabble today Mary winds get under 400 though perhaps I’ll win tomorrow.
Yusai Sakai, who has died aged 87, was a Japanese monk and one of only a handful of men to complete the Sennichi Kaihogyo, a seven-year quest for enlightenment that ranks among the toughest known physical challenges; at the age of 61 he became only the third monk ever to complete it for a second time.
Sakai was one of the so-called “marathon monks” who for 1,300 years have worshipped on Mount Hiei, just north of the ancient city of Kyoto. Unlike most Buddhists, who believe that enlightenment is a process which can be achieved only over several lifetimes through the process of reincarnation, Tendai Buddhists, like the monks of Mt Hiei, consider enlightenment possible in one lifetime.
Not that the process is easy. Enlightenment, they believe, is attained through acts of ascetic devotion to Buddha. The most extreme of these is the Sennichi Kaihogyo, an epic trek through the mountains surrounding their temple, Enryaku. It involves walking increasing distances over 1,000 days, divided into 100-day chunks, during a period of seven years. The distances gradually increase so that, in the seventh and final year, devotees are walking 51 miles (two marathons) each day. If for any reason – from blister to boar attack – they should fail to complete a day, the traditional requirement is suicide.
By the time that the 60-year-old Sakai was completing his second Sennichi Kaihogyo (literally, “the practice of circling the mountains”), the regime was taking its toll. He would rise at midnight for a simple meal of vegetables and miso soup, his only food for the day. Dressed in white burial robes (in acceptance of death), he set out on hand-woven straw sandals to visit some of the 270 places of worship scattered around the mountain landscape. By his own account, if it was a good day he would be back at Enryaku by 9pm. If not, there were no allowances, and he would be on the move again at midnight. Whatever torments he suffered his face remained impassive.
A monk in traditional dress setting out on a day’s walk – REX
Apart from a flaming torch to light the way, he carried with him a knife and a rope to kill himself “had Buddha wanted it” and he had not been able to complete the course. The path he followed remains lined with shrines to those monks who had faltered.
But the Sennichi Kaihogyo is not purely a feat of walking vast distances. In the test’s fifth year monks begin the Do-iri – a nine-day fast during which they are denied food, water and sleep. Scientists consider that anything beyond seven days in such conditions risks death. During the Do-iri the monks retreat deep into their temple, emerging only once a day (at 2am) to collect water from a sacred spring 200 yards away. On the first day this process takes minutes. By the ninth day, with the monks drastically enfeebled, it takes hours. The point is to bring the monk face to face with death. Those who have endured it claim that their senses are dramatically heightened, so that they “can hear the ashes fall from incense sticks”.
“Your nails die during Do-iri and you develop deep furrows in your hands, between your fingers,” Sakai revealed in an interview. “On the second day your lips dry out. On the fourth day you see spots on your body and you start to smell like a rotten fish. You have to burn incense to cover the smell. On the fifth day they bring you water to gargle. You have to spit the water out into a different cup. If the amount you spit out is less than you put in your mouth, you fail the ritual.” By the end of the Do-iri he had lost a quarter of his body weight.
Having completed the Sennichi Kaihogyo for the first time, Sakai became a Daigyoman Ajari, or “Saintly Master Of The Highest Practice”. In Imperial Japan, monks with such status were granted a special place at court, and were the only people allowed to wear shoes in the presence of the Emperor. In modern times those who have completed the Sennichi Kaihogyo become celebrities, with cameras transmitting the final stages of their journey live to the nation. Yet as he completed his first journey, Sakai was not happy. “The first time I didn’t feel satisfied, I could have done a lot of things better,” he said. Such sentiments were a reminder of his early years, before he dedicated himself to the monastery, and when his life was far from spiritual.
Many marathon monks are revered, with worshippers kneeling by the wayside to receive their blessing – REX
Yusai Sakai was born on September 5 1926 and was, by his own admission, a poor student: “As a child at school I failed my exams again and again.” Unable to graduate, he signed up to the Japanese war effort, serving – according to some sources – in Unit 731, a notorious chemical warfare unit active in China. Others have suggested he volunteered as a kamikaze pilot, only for the war to end before he could make the “ultimate sacrifice”.
His situation did not improve much in post-war Japan. He tried once more to enter university but again failed, drifting instead into various jobs around Tokyo. He got married but at almost 40 was still living hand-to-mouth: “Sometimes I’d find work for a month, sometimes two years, but I’d wander and work, wander and work.” Then his wife committed suicide.
“I was lazy and had a good-for-nothing life,” he said, looking back. Mourning his wife, in 1965 he made a pilgrimage to Mt Hiei on foot from Osaka. There he appealed to the monks to be allowed to join their number. Told he was too old, Sakai was allowed to perform a prayer ceremony that involved standing under a freezing waterfall, then rising from his knees 108 times. “Every time that I rose, I could feel my faith grow,” said Sakai. He was accepted into the order.
Six years later he announced his taste for the harshest ritual when he embarked on the “ceaseless nembutsu”, an incantation of the name of Buddha over 90 days, with only two hours of sleep allowed each day. No one had performed this act of devotion for a century, deeming it too risky. Sakai himself counted it even more daunting than the Sennichi Kaihogyo. “I saw this golden glow in the distance, and all these dancing specks of light, and I remember coming down from what seemed like an immense height and just gliding,” he said afterwards. “I’m sure that if I’d just followed the feeling, and if I hadn’t opened my eyes when I hit the floor, I would have passed over into death.”
The monks wear hand-woven straw sandals, going through four or five pairs a day in tough conditions – REX
By the end of the Sennichi Kaihogyo the monks are, inevitably, supremely fit (if often a little deformed), taking 20 minutes to complete the 1,400ft climb back up the mountain that novices puff at for three-quarters of an hour. Marathon and extreme endurance runners have attempted to train with the monks on Sennichi Kaihogyo, but the relentlessness of the ritual is unmatched in modern athletics.
In recent years, Yusai Sakai’s celebrity spread beyond the borders of Japan, where people would queue for his blessing. He continued to walk, making journeys in India and China. He was presented to Pope John Paul II in 1995.
“The message I wish to convey is, please, live each day as if it is your entire life,” he said. “If you start something today, finish it today; tomorrow is another world. Life live positively.”
His pupil, Genshin Fujinami, completed the Sennichi Kaihogyo in 2003.
Yusai Sakai, born September 5 1926, died September 21 2013
The article on marmosets used in experiments at King’s College London (“The ethics of animal tests: inside the lab where marmosets are given Parkinson’s”, News) painted a remarkably positive picture of life in the laboratory ahead of the series of debates sponsored by a pro-vivisection lobby group.
They might be fed marshmallows and have knitted hammocks, but the brain-poisoned marmosets are also left essentially paralysed, mute, rigid and unable to groom or feed themselves. Yet the result is no more than a crude and simplistic model of Parkinson’s disease that is completely unreliable in predicting human outcomes. Contrary to the extraordinary claims quoted in this article, today’s most successful treatments for Parkinson’s (levodopa, selegiline and apomorphine) were pioneered in human trials. Indeed, it is only by focusing on non-animal research that we can hope to move from treating Parkinson’s disease to curing it.
Face the facts, Theresa May
Nick Cohen correctly notes that evidence-free beliefs are frequently expressed in terms of feelings rather than facts (“In Mrs May’s surreal world, feelings trump facts”). When the believer says “it feels” or “I feel that” (and then expresses a fact or thought rather than a feeling), they are masking their true feelings and voicing their opinion. The device is useful as “I feel” is difficult to argue with. The skill of unpacking beliefs, thoughts and opinions masquerading as feelings would promote an honest exchange of views and values. The real feelings of fear, anger, frustration and resentment that lie behind the public’s reported opinions could be addressed openly and may even lead to honest debate.
Dr Anne Brockbank
Do try to contain yourself
A very interesting article from Harriet Meyer about the use of shipping containers as homes to battle the housing supply crises (“Would-be buyers home in on the DIY solution to Britain’s housing crisis”, Cash). However, this is nothing new. For many years, shipping containers have been used to house students in Amsterdam. For instance, there’s Wenckenhof, a student campus consisting of 1,000 containers. The containers have all the mod-cons, plus a balcony or garden, and are indeed fun and comfortable to live in, judging by the long waiting list.
Willem de Blaauw
New meaning to a close shave
Perhaps Jonathan Franzen (“The Kraus Project”, New Review) might have done better to quote a snappier Karl Kraus prediction of our mobile phone intoxication. In 1909, in an essay called Reforms, Kraus re-enacts the advent of the safety razor to exemplify a modernist “reform”. As the new gadget privatises the function of shaving and removes it from the social encounter of the barber’s shop, he mock-laments the spiritual void of the customer deprived of the barber’s pamperings and chatter, but proposes a mock-resolution: the invention of a talking razor, capable, at the press of a button, of reciting all the unsolicited pleasantries of a barber – the stuff that was anathema to the satirist. Who says Kraus wasn’t a modernist?
Not easy to save the children
Your letters page headline was half right (“We all have a duty to step in when the young are in danger”, Big Issue). In the immediate postwar period, the general public still felt a collective duty towards local children. Consider how different things may have been for poor James Bulger – and his abductors – had several adults challenged them.
By then, however, the disastrously counterproductive “Stranger Danger” campaign had resulted in most adults choosing to keep away from any children unknown to them. Fearing false accusation, adults still stay aloof even when a child might possibly be in danger. It is not easy to see how some form of in loco parentis can be restored.
Alan Hallsworth (professor emeritus)
BBC can learn from X Factor
Barbara Ellen rightly applauds the broad ethnic mix of ITV’s The X Factor (“Huge plaudits for the X-Factor’s colour-blindness”, Comment). The BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing is careful to include at least one ethnic minority celebrity in each series. But of 38 professional dancing coaches from many countries featured over 11 series, not one has been black or non-white.
I can rise to the occasion
In “It’s baking me mad. Why it’s time to call a halt to this latest food fetishism” (Viewpoint), Viv Groskop says: “Google the word “duffin”, which was not on anyone’s radar a week ago.” Tell that to the many of us where the name appears on our birth certificates.
I prefer macaroons any day.
Catherine Gerlach, née Duffin
Like many older parents, I see my children and stepchildren having harder lives than mine at their age. Unemployed, overworked and/or in debt, it hurts us all and Labour’s threat to be tougher than the Tories risks rubbing salt in the wounds (“Labour will be tougher than the Tories on benefits, pledges party’s new welfare chief”, News).
Most of my generation had a choice of jobs and felt no great shame on being on benefits between them. Some of us used that time to do what we wanted or thought was needed in the world.
Our sons and daughters do almost anything rather than sign on and my guess is that this, as much as immigration, is what is driving wages down.
I know from experience on and running job-creation schemes that Labour’s latest promise and threat must offer useful work with pay at rate for the job, plus a real prospect of progress, not let-down at the end.
Now, as ever, it makes no sense to push people into work for peanuts to make some rich men richer.
Rachel Reeves, the new shadow minister for work and pensions, endorses the myths that flow from the lips of Iain Duncan Smith by claiming that nobody should be under any illusion that they are going to live a life on benefits under Labour. There is no life worth living on benefits: £71.70 a week single adult unemployment benefit is now paying rent and council tax and becomes valueless because annual increases are pegged at 1% while prices of food, utilities, clothes and transport escalate.
Tins of beans collected at a food bank cannot be cooked at home when the gas bill cannot be paid. Unless there is a policy to provide affordable housing, then a higher and higher proportion of the £500-a-week cap on benefits will be needed to pay rising rents in a housing market in short supply, forcing more individuals, parents and children into penury and out of their homes into temporary and overcrowded accommodation.
The Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
Many people will have been disappointed to read Rachel Reeves’s comments in the Observer. It is a worrying trend that at a time of high unemployment, we see those unable to find work treated like criminals for not finding work that doesn’t exist.
Unemployed people are perfectly capable of assessing what is in their best interests, without threats. They don’t need to be compelled into demoralising and futile exercises so that politicians can look tough. No one would willingly choose life on unemployment benefit that pays just £10 a day (£8 if you’re under 25). Trade union members expect better from the Labour opposition, which should be taking a constructive approach of supporting people into work through training and re-skilling. Work experience also has a role to play, but it should be voluntary and paid, as per TUC policy.
It is pathetic that politicians compensate for their failure to build an economy that provides adequate jobs by bashing the victims of this failure. Many of us had hoped the reshuffle would open the door to a serious debate about the role of social security and the labour market. We hope it still can.
General secretary, PCS
General secretary, NUJ
General secretary, RMT
General secretary, POA
General secretary, URTU
General secretary, BFAWU
General secretary, Napo
General secretary, FBU
John McDonnell MP
Forty years ago an African student I met at university predicted that the agricultural policies of the European Union would have a terrible impact on his continent (“Desperate voyages are turning the sea into a migrants’ cemetery, says Maltese premier”, 13 October). He claimed its tariff walls would curtail the ability of African farmers to export to Europe, and that many of them would be driven out of business by the dumping of subsidised EU food.
The result would be the forced migration of hundreds of thousands of impoverished Africans.
I was disappointed by the name the “Pink” List. As a gay man myself, I see no positive connection between the colour pink and the LGBT community. The flag of the global LGBT community is, after all, a rainbow – representing diversity and equality in equal measure.
I applaud the list, and those responsible for its publication. But perhaps next year we could see it rechristened the Rainbow List?
The editor writes: We are grateful for all the feedback following publication of this year’s Pink List. Next year we might ask readers to vote on what we should call it
It is puzzling that Eric Liddell appears as one of the “100 sports stars who would have failed Jack Wilshere’s England test”.
Liddell was born in China in 1902 and did for a time live in England, as many Scots have. He studied at the University of Edinburgh, and then played rugby for Scotland. In 1922-23, he played for Scotland in seven out of eight Five Nations matches. In 2002 he was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame. The Eric Liddell Centre, an Edinburgh-based charity, was set up in 1980 to honour Eric’s beliefs in community service.
Maybe he fails Jack Wilshere’s England test in the same way that Robert Burns and Billy Connolly do.
The claim by Patrick Cockburn that the Mujahedin-e Khalq (PMOI/MEK) had any role in the alleged assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist or that the group has any link to Mossad is entirely baseless and unsubstantiated (6 October). The National Council of Resistance of Iran has repeatedly and categorically denied any involvement in the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists. The primary source of these fictitious allegations is the Iranian regime’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). Faced with economic collapse, the prospect of losing its strategic ally in Syria and growing pressure to give up its nuclear weapons programme, the Iranian regime has resorted to fabricating stories against its main opposition in a classic case of misinformation.
The claim that the PMOI took part in suppressing Iraqi Kurds in 1991 is another lie peddled by the MOIS. Its publication violates the principles of journalism and has a clear political agenda. Since the inauguration of Hassan Rouhani, more than 220 people have been executed in Iran. Additionally, on 1 September, 52 members of the PMOI, all “protected persons” under the Fourth Geneva Convention, were massacred in Camp Ashraf, Iraq, by armed Iraqi Special Forces at the behest of the Iranian regime. Seven camp residents were taken hostage by Iraqi forces and are in grave danger of being extradited to Iran, in violation of the principle of non-refoulement.
The article fails to mention that in June, more than 100,000 Iranians from all over the world gathered in Paris to support the PMOI members at camps Ashraf and Liberty. This was a microcosm of the support the PMOI has inside Iran.
UK representative, National Council of Resistance of Iran
It should not be surprising to learn that intelligence is genetically determined while equally “any child from whatever background can achieve the highest academic ability” (13 October). Social background and genetic inheritance are not mutually incompatible and therein lay the strength of the grammar school system. This is not eugenics, merely common sense.
E A Benson
Degree is no measure of ability in workplace
DOMINIC LAWSON is quite right, of course: it’s not a question of a person’s qualifications but his ability to perform the task at hand in the workplace (“So what if you have an MA, PhD and MBA — can you do the job?”, Comment, last week). There is far too much emphasis placed on academic credentials. At the bar there are many brilliant people, but I have noticed that not all those with Oxbridge firsts have great judgment.
When I was able to take on pupils, I remember interviewing a prospective candidate. We got on and after 15 minutes or so I told him that I’d take him on as my pupil. He was surprised and asked me if I was aware that he only had a lower second from Bristol and was I concerned about it. I told him I knew, I didn’t care and that he could could start the following Monday. Robert Rhodes QC, London WC2
Rules of engagement
Whenever I have employed people, it has been on the basis that we can get along — their academic qualifications are irrelevant. There is no substitute for learning on the job. When I started life as an accountant that is how we did it. Later there was a move to a university education, and the results were definitely worse.
I have met many wonderful academics who make very bad practitioners. A lawyer friend once told me he received 300 applications for two training places every year and he picked the winners at random on the grounds that he wanted lucky people to work with, not academically clever ones.
Peter Kralj, Hampton Hill, London TW12
I am a product of the methods the educational establishment regards as “antediluvian” (“Britain is bottom of the class”, Editorial, and “The lessons our schools must learn”, Focus, last week). My grandad, who left school aged 11 to go down the mines, taught me multiplication and basic reading and writing when I was four. This was the start of a learning process that took me to a Cambridge degree.
Education is at a crossroads: it can continue to tinker at the edges or it can go back to those perceived antediluvian methods. If teachers and pupils object to the latter approach, they should be told initially to do as best as they can and see standards improving with time. Otherwise we will continue to agonise over Britain’s position at the bottom of the class.
Ray Long, London SW16
The introduction of comprehensive schools left teachers with the impossible job of teaching a vast range of abilities in the same class. I went to a grammar school and my husband to a direct grant school. To get an equivalent level of education for our children we would have had to pay for private schooling, which we could not afford, and so our sons went to a comprehensive and then to a further education college.
As a teacher and a mother of three sons who did not reach their full potential, I do not blame the teachers but the system. Maybe instead of seeking scapegoats among the former, the government should be looking at how the latter can be improved.
Rosemarie Heron, Exeter, Devon
I know a primary school teacher who writes in children’s books, and on classroom displays, comments such as “you could of wrote more”, “you done great” and “we wasn’t there”. This young woman has in theory 40 years ahead of her in a classroom. I fear she is not alone. What hope is there for our children?
Name and address withheld
Taxed by capital gains
THERE is growing resentment towards the enrichment of the nation’s capital city at the exclusion of other areas (“Another country”, Magazine, last week). In 1997 Tony Blair’s government had an open-door immigration policy that meant the beneficiaries of the London-enrichment programme were foreign nationals. The rest of Britain wasn’t invited to this bonanza.
This London-centric focus has continued unabated and Boris Johnson now has the temerity to talk about the city’s autonomy. If we all followed his logic Surrey, which has the highest taxpayers, the lowest crime rate and welfare bills, and the least expenditure on capital programmes, should go it alone.
David Gullen, Woking, Surrey
Your article “Go north and conquer” (Home, last week) begins: “Many of us dream of escaping the crush of London.” A version of this argument appears with tedious regularity: Londoners who are going to make a packet on their houses are given a list of places to move to. Home for some of your readers is the north — and we’re not just a place where rich Londoners can buy cheap houses.
Rowena Gregory, Skipton, North Yorkshire
Putting politics before justice in Kenya
WHAT an appalling situation Nicholas Monson finds himself in, in his attempts to pursue the man who killed his son in police custody in Kenya (“As we tiptoe around Kenya, murderers are walking free”, News Review, last week). Having failed in his battle to get justice while on the ground in Kenya, he then finds that his efforts to get tangible support from our government are thwarted by the perceived need to keep Kenya sweet, as it were.
And it is explained to him that this tiptoe policy is because “the West relies on Kenya for security in respect of the volatile lands to its north” and “Britain must do nothing to jeopardise its relationship with Kenya, as geopolitical considerations rank higher than any other”. It beggars belief. There has to be a limit on how far our policy setters can subjugate decency and morals in the international balancing act that is world politics.
Betty Branagan, Worthing, West Sussex
One size fits all
It is a very straightforward matter to stop employers forcing women to wear headscarves or veils (“Muslim free school in spotlight over £95,000 payments”, News, last week). It simply requires that laws on equality be rigorously applied to dress codes so that gender-specific items of clothing, or aspects of appearance, are banned for all employers. This would solve the headscarf problem. It would also prevent old- fashioned employers — of which there are still quite a few — forcing women to wear skirts or make-up, and would stop even more antiquated employers compelling men to have short hair and wear ties.
Dr Steven Field, Wokingham, Berkshire
Best of both worlds
It is patronising to assume that those who enjoy Downton also drink Horlicks and listen to The Archers (“Homeland v Downton”, Focus, last week). Some of us enjoy both dramas for the same reasons: excellent casts, scripts and editing. In my family three generations watch both series. We don’t wrestle over the remote control as we have the technology to record one while watching the other.
Meriel Winwood, London SW18
Three of a kind
Christina Lamb’s accurate assessment of the chaos in Libya claimed “the country has none of the ethnic divisions of Afghanistan and Iraq” (“Rival militias drive Libya to brink of chaos”, World News, last week). Libya has traditionally been divided into three separate regions, Tripolitania, Cyrenaica (Benghazi) and Fezzan. While not strictly ethnically divided, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica have always fiercely defended their right to run their regions. Colonel Muammar Gadaffi, a Tripolitanian, never ventured into Benghazi unless accompanied by a strong force of loyal soldiers, knowing full well he was not welcome.
Victor Cavallo, Sliema, Malta
Money to burn
Neither your article on woodburners (“Burning wood: the hot new city trend”, News, October 6) nor “Flue jab” (Letters, last week) raised the issue of where the greatly increased quantities of wood for burning are going to be found. As demand inevitably exceeds supply, the cost of logs, scrap timber and access to fallen wood will rise and your quoted figure of 4p-a-kilowatt-hour running cost will rapidly overtake the cost of gas.
Mike Jackson, Southampton
Two very different female role models, Malala Yousafzai and Miley Cyrus, have been in the news, albeit for very different reasons (“My year with Malala”, and “Good golly Miss Miley!”, Magazine, last week). I read Miley’s real name is Destiny Hope as her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, “thought it was her destiny to bring hope to the world”. You couldn’t make it up.
Mark Sidaway, Long Buckby, Northamptonshire
GCHQ is deemed to be a jewel in the crown that enables Britain to punch above its weight (“Dark net leaks angers spies”, News, last week). But worship of the Cheltenham-based panopticon is too high a price to pay given the attendant loss of liberty. Better to trade our place at the top negotiating table for an informed open society.
Yugo Kovach Winterborne, Houghton, Dorset
As a solicitor, I’m required by the government to carry out stringent client money- laundering checks to ensure that there are no risks of financing terrorism. Yet the state has co-operated with the EU in transferring funds to Gaza and the West Bank. As you point out, “Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which is classified as a terrorist organisation by the EU”, whose Council of Auditors watchdog noted “significant shortcomings” in the way funds were managed (“£1.95bn EU aid lost in Palestine”, World News, last week).
Barry Borman, Edgware, London
Corrections and clarifications
A picture accompanying the article “Housewives happy to kill for Hitler” (News Review, October 6) was captioned “A Czech woman prepares to welcome Hitler in 1938.” The woman was in fact from Sudetenland, a German-speaking region of Czechoslovakia. We apologise for the error.
Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org or The Editor, The Sunday Times, 3 Thomas More Square, London E98 1ST. In addition, the Press Complaints Commission (email@example.com or 020 7831 0022) examines formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines (and their websites)
Danny Boyle, film director, 57; Snoop Dogg, rapper, 42; Wanda Jackson, musician, 76; Dannii Minogue, singer and actress, 42; Viggo Mortensen, actor, 55; Tom Petty, singer-songwriter, 63; Claudio Ranieri, Italian football manager, 62; Ian Rush, footballer, 52
1947 House Un-American Activities Committee begins investigation of Hollywood; 1960 opening day of R v Penguin Books Ltd, the Lady Chatterley trial; 1973 public opening of Sydney Opera House; 2011 former Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi captured and killed
SIR – I lived for 30 years among the hill farmers of Northumberland, and it seems to me that those against fox-hunting are conveniently forgetting the reason for relaxing the Act, which is the increase in new-born lambs being killed by foxes.
For many farmers, particularly those with hill sheep, lambing in late March and early April is the only time in the year to generate the major part of their income. Lambing is not always done in a nice warm barn, but usually in the open fields where farmers will spend a fortnight without proper sleep or sitting down for a meal. They are with the ewes 24 hours a day, helping with birth.
Foxes hunt at night. They have cubs that need feeding and a new-born lamb is easy prey for them. That is why fox-hunting is so important.
J B Harvey
East Wittering, West Sussex
SIR – Last winter we had a proliferation of foxes attacking lambs in our lambing shed. Regrettably we had to resort to the gun and the night sight, meaning we couldn’t tell between the sick or well, vixen or dog fox.
The foxhound was designed to be a more precise method of control.
SIR – Many of us elderly people are lonely and uncared for, according to Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, who wants young people to change the way they treat their parents and grandparents.
However, Fraser Nelson says that we old people have every advantage and that the young pay a heavy price for the support we get. It is a tragedy that many of the young cannot get jobs, but that is no fault of the elderly.
Many of those young people who do get jobs cannot get on the housing ladder because they cannot save for the deposit. Often this is because they have a partner and have chosen to live together, thus paying rent. In my day, once in love we lived with our parents until we had saved the deposit on a property.
Abbots Morton, Worcestershire
SIR – How dare Alan Milburn suggest that the elderly should pay for the young! Today’s elderly (well, many of us) made sacrifices to buy property. (My father gave up smoking and drank half a pint of beer on a Saturday evening to fund his £12 a month mortgage in 1950). We now face huge fees for care.
Sheep farmers see the need to relax hunting ban
19 Oct 2013
My mother died three months ago after spending well over £200,000 for six years’ care in a dementia home, and I have recently spent several thousand on respite care for my husband.
Today’s young cannot save because they will not give up gadgets, designer clothes, holidays, wining and dining.
Eastbourne, East Sussex
SIR – As a pensioner I certainly do not feel “uncomfortable” because I have not borne the brunt of government cuts, as suggested by Alan Milburn. We pensioners, now without the security of a salary, rely on a state pension, a private pension (if it was possible financially to contribute to one) and any savings that we scraped together.What we do bear the brunt of are crippling food and utility bills, and derisory interest on any savings we have left.
Many pensioners rely on their free bus passes to get about, which surely reduces the number of cars on our roads. We also rely on the heating allowance. And which group of society regularly votes?
SIR – I will gladly pay more tax, as Mr Milburn suggests, provided he arranges to return the near 75 per cent of my pension pot that his party, through Gordon Brown, took from me and then squandered. Such short memories our politicians have.
SIR – Jeremy Hunt exhorts us to adopt Asian habits of care for the elderly. Will the Britishness test for citizenship be amended to include questions about Asian culture?
Let the young do things
SIR – The figure for young people failing to find work remains stubbornly high at one million.
Unless you fix the pipeline of students leaving school with inadequate skills, youth unemployment is never going to go away. Companies are told that it is vital to employ young people, yet when they hold interviews they discover that the potential recruits are not equipped for the jobs.
The national curriculum focuses too much on academic knowledge. Young people therefore miss out on the full range of skills they need to get their first job.
Education must now evolve to allow students to interact with the world around them. We must let them create and learn from their own ideas and their own mistakes. Let them run their own enterprise. Let them learn by doing.
If the Government and more businesses invested in enterprise education, it would be one of the highest-return investments we in Britain could make. It would create jobs and wealth, and sustainably save the stress and distress of youth unemployment.
Chief Executive, Young Enterprise
Switch to whom?
SIR – David Cameron told us yesterday to switch from British Gas. Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, had already advised us to switch when SSE put up its prices. Who will be delegated to suggest we change from the next company to raise its charges to pay for useless wind turbines?
SIR – The broadcaster Joan Bakewell is a peeress of the realm, and very knowledgeable about the English Civil War. She should also be aware that it is England and not Westminster, as she implies, that is the “Mother of Parliaments”, according to John Bright, who coined the expression in a speech in 1865.
Woodford Green, Essex
Take up the gauntlet
SIR – Rosemary Basden (Letters, October 18) complains about singeing her oven gloves. I have used leather welders’ gauntlets when cooking for many years. They are cheap, long-lasting and far more effective than any normal oven gloves. They also cover the wrist where people often get burned, so are commended to Aga owners.
West Woodhay, Berkshire
Seen nothing yeti
SIR – I am also convinced of the existence of the yeti. While trekking in the Himalayas in the Khumbu region, I took a photograph (above, left) of a mysterious footprint in the village of Machermo -–it looks almost identical to the famous footprint photograph taken in 1951 (above right).
Tories and the Union
SIR – Andy Stewart was the proud chairman of the Strathaven constituency’s flourishing Young Unionists. In the Fifties, they were not called Young Conservatives, because in 1912 the Conservative Party and the Liberal Unionist Party in Scotland came together to form the Scottish Unionist Party.
For 50 years it worked in partnership with the Conservative Party south of the border as an effective advocate of Scottish national interests. Andy Stewart’s prominent role in the party coincided with the high point of its success, when it held half the Scottish seats.
In 1965 Edward Heath suddenly announced that, as part of a wide-ranging reorganisation, his Scottish followers (whom he had not bothered to consult) would be known in future as Conservatives. It marked the start of the steady decline of the Unionist cause in Scotland.
SIR – I noticed that Alex Salmond, when addressing his party conference on Thursday, wore a poppy in his lapel.
When public figures make such an egregious gesture weeks in advance of Remembrance Sunday, I always think that they are following some private agenda.
SIR – Alex Salmond has announced that he will be supporting England’s football team in the World Cup. Now England will learn how embarrassing he can be when he claims to be on your side.
A H N Gray
Subsidiarity in the bin
SIR – “Europe” is now making laws about bins. Whatever happened to subsidiarity?
SIR – In the BBC programme Peaky Blinders, most of the main characters smoke cigars, pipes and cigarettes incessantly, which was normal in the Twenties. By contrast, in the contemporaneous Downton Abbey, the only character who smokes regularly is the devious underbutler Thomas – and this is used only to indicate that he is a bad lot.
Pews must not get in the way of modern needs
SIR – The hamlet of East Pennard has a wonderful medieval Grade I listed church, used and maintained by a small, ageing congregation. Its pews were installed by the Victorians to provide seating for what was the social event of the week. These same pews now prevent the church from fulfilling this function.
If the church cannot adapt to changing needs then it will fall into disuse. A compromise is the answer: remove some pews to provide flexible working space.
East Pennard, Somerset
SIR – A considerable sum has been donated in our village for “renovations” but removal of pews in excess of the number planned has proved bitterly divisive.
Whereas some judicious replanning for certain events is appropriate, to vandalise our forebears’ devout efforts by furnishing half the church with chairs and restaurant facilities is, for some, beyond the pale.
SIR – I do hope that the Rt Rev Colin Fletcher, Bishop of Dorchester, informed the parishes of the value of the pews that he praised them for replacing. The straight lengths of seasoned hardwood are extremely valuable for making traditional furniture. Twenty average lengths of pews would probably pay for a 100 wooden chairs.
* The fallout from the Budget is almost upon us. We have gone through the annual release of the bogeyman of rumours, of claim and counter-claim, educated guess, reliable leaks etc.
Also in this section
Grey brigade bearing the brunt of austerity
What we truly can’t afford is bad accounting
US shutdown a shattering wake-up call
The political parties line up along familiar lines. Captain Government with its hard, firm, strong hand on the tiller of ‘Good Ship Ireland’ and the opposition blowing wind from its mouth in an attempt to change the direction on the chart of the nation’s course as contained in the Budget folder. We attend the deliberations like sheep staring over a hedge at the farmer bringing the feed.
We allow our power of self-determination and duty to build a better society for our children to be decided by parties unknown and presented by parties we are all too familiar with, regardless of their position in the celestial chart room of Kildare Street.
In many ways the Budget has taken the shape and rhetoric of a Papal Bull. The figures are infallible, the Lord of Money and its distribution has spoken and we return to our inner selves and determine to survive regardless.
Is this enough for our children and the tomorrow they must inhabit when we are gone? Are we, through our mesmerisation by the great show, being disabled from doing our duty? Are we subtly and strangely comforted by the consistency of the repetition? Is our addictive personality twisted back upon us by the loud bayings from the chamber? Are we at Budget Day in the same frame of mind as at any annual religious ceremony?
Yes, that’s what happened last year and it has happened again, so everything is alright, because I’m still here – existing. Our devotion to the Great Bible Budget is understandable. After all, were we to consider any alternatives we might individually have to make harder decisions. We might have to care.
Yep, it’s definitely easier to sit back, survive and let the next generation build their own future. We’ll sit back and just watch the criminals, their celebrity status, the emigration, the soup kitchens and once a year we’ll go to the Budget ceremony and pray for a fair wind.
Athenry, Co Galway
DRIVING LICENCE RIP-OFF
* I write with regard to the mindless buffoonery surrounding the introduction (after so many years) of plastic drivers’ licences. I am the proud owner of a paper licence, which looks like it fell out from between the pages of the ‘Book of Kells’. The plastic pouch that came with it disintegrated previously, about two years into its 10-year tenure.
Off I went to my nearest tax office, thinking that I could simply get a replacement plastic one. I had my passport photos and small book from the RSA website printed out and stamped by the local gardai.
Having got there, I was told that my photos might not be right. I asked was I not handsome enough. It actually transpired that they were “not white enough” in the background. I pointed out that they are deemed valid for a passport to go to the USA, but still no joy.
It transpires that you can get into the most terrorist-aware country on earth with the photos I possessed, but not get a replacement Irish driving licence. I was expecting to be told that I would be charged maybe a €5 administration fee (even €10) as my licence is in date for years to come.
No, I was expected to pay €35 for what I’ve already paid for and to run to the chemist to get different photos.
At that point I decided to keep my existing one.
Bray, Co Wicklow
MAKING THE SICK SUFFER
* The hypocrisy of this Government has been exposed in the latest move to raise the prescription charge to €2.50 per item for medical card patients.
Before taking office, Dr James Reilly castigated Mary Harney for introducing a 50c charge for each item on medical card prescriptions, pointing out that this would deter the most vulnerable patients from taking prescribed medications.
He promised to scrap this unfair tax when taking office, but instead raised it to €1.50 and now proposes to raise it to €2.50.
The minister has publicly acknowledged that this tax will prevent access to medications by the most needy in our society.
I have seen at first hand in my own practice the effect of this tax, where many patients simply choose not to take essential medications.
In a cynical acceptance that this tax reduces the amount of medicine consumed – and with total disregard for the consequences – the minister has chosen to increase it even further.
James Cassidy MPSI
LEARN FROM THE US
* Congratulations to Ed Toal for reminding us that “Ireland has looked to America for an example” in how we run our democracy.
However, we seem to have missed the lesson of what Ed Toal calls the shutdown on Capitol hill being a “shattering wake-up call” for American democracy when we did what was advocated by many in our media and academia, ie voted to retain and ‘reform’ the Seanad by giving it more power.
In the recent referendum, we therefore, seem to have, as Ed Toal says in his letter, allowed “expediency to take precedence over the interests of the many, at the behest of a mighty few”.
PANICKING OVER SPIDERS
* As someone with an extreme, probably irrational fear and hatred of spiders, I last night had a horrific nightmare about a large ‘false widow’ spider chasing me through my own house, leading me to wake, extremely panicked, at 4.50am. It took Wikipedia to assure me that I most likely wouldn’t die if I had the bad luck to aggravate one and get bitten.
I’d like to thank all of the media outlets who have built up as great a public panic as possible around the “poisonous” false widow spiders that are apparently “spreading all over Ireland” in their millions.
Repeated stories about the horrors of that spider’s venom, combined with video tutorials on how to kill them, are leading me to expect road signs to be disassembled and displaced to disorientate them in their invasion and to have Dublin’s children evacuated to the countryside for their own safety.
ONE IRISH SOCCER TEAM
* Whatever the merits of the North’s First Minister Peter Robinson’s praise of the GAA for its peace-building efforts, there is another code that could – and maybe should – be playing a more significant role in
It is high time that more than just lip service is paid to the idea of having an all-Ireland soccer team.
Considering that much of the most vehement sectarianism emanates from the soccer terraces, a move to a 32-county team might help to tackle this.
The bigger challenge, perhaps, would be finding success on the pitch, as the current form of both the Republic and Northern Ireland suggests a tough road ahead.
Sectarianism is the ugly side of the beautiful game. Soccer is imitating life in general, you might say.
Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon
PUT DOWN THAT IRON
* After reading that housework is somewhat over-rated as a means of exercise, I immediately cancelled my hoovering and ironing plans. I feel fitter already.
Beaumont, Dublin 9